WordPress Beginner Mistakes and how to avoid making them

WordPress is an excellent tool for newbie bloggers. It's simple to install and straight out of the box offers an easy path to publishing content. The most popular blogging platform in the world became the most popular Content Management System (CMS) through more than 10 years of development.

The benefits of WordPress for new users are many. The ability to create properly formatted-for-web content and publish it with a single click is empowering. This functionality is available to beginners and experts. The lower barrier to entry means that beginners, armed with this comprehensive web publishing platform, make common WordPress beginner errors on their blog.

Not understanding how to customize and optimize WordPress can lead to a poorly performing, and low ranking site. Hackers target WordPress websites because they know that many have been set up by inexperienced bloggers.

Here are some common WordPress mistakes to avoid. I've included solutions so you can patch up any issues your website might have.

wordpress admin beginner

Mistake #1 – Buying a poor performing WordPress theme.

This is probably the most crucial WordPressmistake you should address. Free themes often look great and many of them function perfectly well. But what exactly are you getting when you put a free theme on your WordPress blog? You're getting a theme that might not have the proper security standards implemented. The developers have no incentive to maintain the theme so you might be left with a broken website the next time WordPress gets an update.

Of course, no theme is optimized straight out the box. Expect to spend a few hours or even days (weeks on a bigger site) to get your website looking the way you want it. Themes (or templates as non-techies call them) are merely starting points for getting online faster. Building a theme from scratch can costs tens of thousands of dollars. The best themes have teams of people working full-time on the code. Most business owners don't have the funds to splash out on a bespoke WordPress theme.

WordPress Themes For Beginners

There are literally thousands of themes for WordPress available across hundreds of developer sites, theme resellers, and marketplaces.

Looks aren't everything, and many beautiful looking themes are slow to load and cumbersome to use. Some have security flaws, such as certain themes on ThemeForest, as reported by WPtavern. In many cases, the issues are with plugins and are not caused by negligence on the part of the web marketplace. Not all WordPress templates are created equal.

Developers of a theme are sometimes too busy, distracted, or uninterested in maintaining a one-off theme, to fix potential flaws.

I’ve seen hundreds of themes that Look amazing in the demo but perform really badly. Themes that depend on hundreds of javascript scripts, external style sheets, image sliders, and other fancy stuff will always struggle to load on slow connections. Even users with fast connections will experience long loading times with these themes. If you don’t think this is important then read this (internal link 40% of sites slow, etc). The speed of your site is a ranking factor for Google. A slow site corresponds to lower rankings. If you don’t mind being on page 400 of Google’s search results then, by all means, use a ‘beast' of a theme.

Not all WordPress templates are created equal.

To get an idea of how a theme performs, check the reviews. It's worth remembering that reviews by bloggers that include affiliate links may not be 100% honest with their review. Many websites, including this one, promote affiliate links only for products they use and really like. But you can’t count on everyone to be so honest.

If there’s a demo version or a lite version of the theme for download then try this out to see how it works. Run speed tests on the demo theme on the developer or marketplace site to see if anything unusual pops up. This isn’t a perfect method however as the demo site may be on a super fast server and the theme may even be modified to appear faster.

Use the ThemeCheck plugin for WordPress to check for issues with your theme once you install WordPress

Many themes come with preinstalled plugins such as sliders, forums, galleries. Check to see if these plugins are third-party products. If they are, it’s worth doing more research on that theme. Imagine buying a car with hundreds of extra customisation parts made by hundreds of different manufacturers, none of whom you can trust. Each of these parts could have potential security and performance issues. Would you want to drive that car?

Themes with all parts coded by one developer are the safest. This may mean purchasing a simpler theme or a bare bones theme. It will be less of a hassle in the long-run. (I realise that this is intrinsically impossible due to the very nature of code on the internet being built upon other code, but you get my point).

If you decide to go with one of these themes, check out the technical support plan offered by the developer. If they offer one year of support you should know that after the year you may not be able to upgrade the plugins or even the theme, unless you pay the price of the theme again, leaving you open to vulnerabilities in the code.

Simply installing a good theme does not guarantee a good website

Not all speed issues and performance issues are the result of the theme. Caching software is one of the must-have WordPress plugins and can help improve the download speed of your site. However, a caching plugin such as the excellent W3 Total Cache is not the answer to a bad WordPress theme. It will help a bit but having a solid foundation will give you a better place to start from.

Simply installing a good theme does not guarantee a good website. You need to understand the WordPress ecosystem and correct implementation of themes. There are many sites out there utilizing the best themes and frameworks but they still perform poorly and look terrible.

Mistake #2 – Using a bad web hosting company

This is one of the most common mistakes new website owners make. There are three things to consider when looking at hosting providers.

  • Ease of use.
  • Performance.
  • Security

I didn’t include price as most major providers are offering similar deals these days. With providers offering discounts and special offers there’s a wealth of choice and saving a couple of dollars here is easy. Don’t fall into the trap of buying the cheapest hosting unless that particular hosting is a proven winner.

I include technical support in the ‘ease of use’ category. A web hosting package is not user-friendly if the technical support department is impossible to contact or they are incompetent.

The quality of support (technical and non-technical) offered by hosting providers is very important, in my view. Even for highly technical end-users, having a fast, well-trained, and knowledgeable team of support professionals at hand is a big plus.

My recommendation for hosting provider is CloudWays. With CloudWays you get to choose the actual platforms that your sites run on (Google Cloud, Digital Ocean). While that might sound a bit technical, know that you have a choice of speed and power based on your budget. And you can change later. The result is a fast experience. If you want the fastest, most robust hosting, Cloudways is the best choice. Live chat 24/7 is a great feature to have, especially as a WordPress beginner.

Next on my list of web hosts for WordPress websites is SiteGround. The technical support team is one of the best I've encountered. The company offers free SSL certificates with all of your WordPress websites. And finally, the high-performance hosting packages are very competitively priced.

I haven't mentioned providers I would not use. But let's just say that a couple of them make up for 75% of the hosting ads and product placements I see on the internet. They do not offer a quality service. Avoid!

Mistake #3 – Installing Plugins that slow your website

Plugins are what make life easy when using WordPress. Adding functionality that would have cost thousands of dollars a few years ago is as simple as finding the right plugin. But some plugins are complete resource hogs. Don't install these, no matter what they offer in terms of functionality.

Use Plugin Performance Profiler (P3) on your WordPress site to examine the performance of plugins on your site. If you have installed some plugins and noticed that your site is particularly slow, make sure to use P3 to determine if one of your plugins is causing problems.

Mistake #4 – Not using search engine friendly permalinks

Correct permalink structure is an important factor for better SEO. Permalinks refer to how the URLs of your website are formed.  For better indexing in search engines, use the domain/post-name standard.

WordPress, by default, uses a date type format for URLs. This is not ideal for search engines. Unfortunately, many WordPress site owner’s do not change their permalink settings robbing themselves of potential SEO gains.

The setting is easy to change, however.

A word of caution: do not change your permalink settings on established WordPress websites unless you understand the implications. You will need to create redirects from the old URL to the new URL for every single page and post on your site.

To change the WordPress permalink setting, go to Settings > Permalinks in the WordPress admin.

Under ‘common settings', you will probably find the Day and name radio button ticked. Select the radio button next to Post name.

This forces WordPress to use only the name of the post in the URL. So instead of the following URL structure:

http://myblog.com/2016/04/09/awesome-post-about-cats

we see this URL structure:

http://myblog.com/awesome-post-about-cats

That’s an easier to read URL and it’s much more SEO friendly.

Mistake #5 – Not optimising images.

Unoptimized images are often one of the main reasons for a website being slow. Those really impressive photos you took on your SLR camera are not suited for the web in their raw form. You might work with 10 MB image files on your computer and they might look great. But the same file placed on a web page will kill your website's speed.

Not only will users have to wait for the entire file to download but your website hosting bandwidth will be gobbled up quickly.

What's the solution to unoptimized images?

Reduce the image file size by reducing the quality of the image and change the dimensions (making the height and width smaller). You can reduce image quality and dimensions in Photoshop and many free tools online.

The ShortPixel Image Optimizer plugin for WordPress is a useful tool to automatically save bytes by reducing images even further. CloudImage is a cloud-based tool for automatically reducing the load on your server by serving up perfectly-sized and optimized images to visitors.

Mistake #6 – Installing WordPress on a Subdomain

There’s a bit of debate over this one and plenty of people have reported conflicting results. Google claim that it makes no difference to opt for a subdomain like http://blog.domainname.com but the team at Moz doesn't agree.

To be on the safe side don’t use a subdomain unless you have a good reason to use it. Blog.Mydomain.com might look good but it’s probably not helping your traffic metrics.

Mistake #7 – Not updating plugins and themes

This should be pretty obvious but it's an easy one to ignore. Most of the time you can carry on with your WordPress website for months without updating plugins and themes. The site continues to work and maybe you don't have time to go through the process of updating. But this would be a big mistake. Plugins aren't usually updated for ‘feature' improvements. Critical security issues are what drives a lot of updates. Every software company puts out a statement about patching their operating system or plugin from time to time. What sounds like a simple improvement is often the closing of a gaping security hole in the software.

Make sure to update all your themes and plugins on a regular basis. Hackers target out-of-date software to exploit the security flaws that are not patched up.

WordPress will let you know when you need to update its software or plugins. You can also set it to automatically update, saving you the bother of doing it manually.

Mistake #8 – Not Backing up your website & content

What happens when you accidentally delete some files on your server? You have a few choices for recovering these files

  1. Check with your hosting provider to see whether they provide backups.
  2. Check to see whether you have a local up-to-date copy of your files.
  3. Restore the site or files from a backup.

I can’t stress enough the importance of backing up. It's easy to forget just how much time you put into your website. Blogs are usually built incrementally. One post per week or month. An hour's work here and there. But add up all of that effort and you've got months of work. Imagine trying to get your site back to where it was in the case of a catastrophic website failure!

The downtime will harm your business and ranking. But the content is irreplaceable.

Take no chances, back your site up. There’s really no excuse as free and inexpensive backup software make this process simple.

Mistake #9 – Using Wordpress.com instead of WordPress.org

When I started out on WordPress the difference between the .com and .org versions of the same company confused me.

WordPress.com is for people that don’t want to install WordPress on their own server. You sign up and get a domain name like mycompany.wordpress.com. While this can be an easy and maintenance-free way to get started it's not a good long term solution.

If you don’t care about the URL your site lives on or you don't want to customize your site then WordPress.com is a good choice. If you want to add plugins and make money from your website then go with WordPress.org.

Think long and hard about the two choices before you begin writing blog posts. Making the wrong decision will cost you in the long run.

Of course, to use the open-source WordPress.org plugin, you'll also need a web hosting package and domain name. But it's a small price to pay to enjoy the free software that powers 30% of websites on the internet.

Mistake #10 – Using a default favicon

In case you didn't know, a favicon is a little icon in the tab of your browser that displays when you visit a website. The default favicon on most WordPress themes should be changed as soon as possible. This helps your brand by putting your logo in all as many places as possible. And it looks a lot more professional.

Changing the favicon is a different process on every theme so check the documentation that came with yours.

Go for a 32×32 pixel PNG or ICO file.

Mistake #11 – Using too many post tags

New bloggers tend to go a little overboard on tags. Adding lots of tags to each post seems like a good idea and the more the merrier, right? Not quite.

Tags are like an index. Categories can be used as chapters or list of contents.

Be careful with the tags you use as overuse can dilute the message of your page and site. If you have a post about say website hosting and you mention a web hosting company in London then one could conceivable use London as a tag but if this is the only mention of London on the site then it’s worth reconsidering that tag. A tag indicates to Google that something is important.

Be careful with the tags you use as they can dilute the message of your page and site. Tags are designed to help group concepts and ideas. They can also help users navigate your WordPress website. Tags are like an index. Categories can be used as chapters or list of contents.

Used wisely, tags can be very powerful. But remember, use them wisely!

On most websites, we like to remove tags altogether from Google's index. Every tag is another URL (page) that can rank on Google. When you've got lots of tags, the number of pages on your site can grow fast. And the tag pages can compete with your regular posts in the rankings. De-index the tags with an SEO tool like SEOPress.

Mistake #12 – Not creating blog posts

Blogging is one of the most effective ways of growing your business. Without content, Google will see little value in your website. Many WordPress beginners create sites that look great but lack the kind of content that helps people. After all, driving organic (search engine) traffic to your website comes down to your ability to write content that engages users, answer their questions, and provide value to the reader.

Mistake #13 – Creating random blog posts

While blogging is the traffic generation method that will yield the biggest return on investment (in time and money), just writing about random topics will not help you grow your site. Rule number one in blogging is knowing what people are looking for. Without this, your shooting in the dark. Sometimes you'll hit the target but most of the time you will miss.

Before you even begin to write, find the keywords and phrases that people are typing into Google. Keysearch is a great tool for keyword research and will save you tons of time.

Mistake #14 – Not installing Google Analytics

Before you begin blogging and sharing your content, set up Google Analytics so you can track the progress of your website. Google Analytics is a free tool that lets you track almost every aspect of your site's performance, Know where your visitors are coming from. Find out which blog posts and pages perform the best. See how long people spend on each page.

These are just some of the things beginners and professionals alike can see with this analytics tool. Read this a beginner's guide to Google Analytics to get acquainted

1 thought on “Common WordPress Mistakes Beginners Make [How To Avoid Them]”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing all of this great information! I’ve decided to tweet more for my business and this information is exactly what I needed to learn. Thanks!

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